Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Conditioning for Pitchers: Exercises for the Offseason
By Olan Suddeth
Pitchers are not made during practice - they are made in the offseason. However, there is more to being a pitcher than simply throwing the ball - and throwing the ball too much during the offseason can do more harm than good. Follow these exercise siggestions to build a regular workout that will help increase emdurance, flexibility, and strength.
Contrary to popular belief, leg muscles - not arm strength - are where the pitcher's power comes from. Most of the force of a pitch starts with a good push off, accompanied by good form in the torso to transfer that energy through the body and out the arm.
A pitcher should do squats at least three to four days per week, in sets if fifteen to twenty. Supervise to ensure that the back is kept straight, the legs about sholder width apart. Add dumbells as the exercise gets easier.
Anyone can start off a game with a solid inning or two. The real test of a pitcher's mettle is if he can last deep in the game and still have the stuff needed to get batters out. Even if your son is a designated closer, and only needs to pitch an inning or two, odds are that he is fielding another position in the meantime, and that the summer sun is still sapping his energy.
Jogging will build endurance like nothing else. Players should jog three times per week for maximum results, and will ideally cover at least a mile. At first, your player may well only be able to jog a hundred yards or two. That's fine. Have them jog as far as they can, then stop and wallk at a brisk rate to rest. As soon as the old heart rate drops enough to allow it, jog again.
Set goals - "today, I'll make it to the Smith's mailbox before I stop to walk" - and work on imrpoving them. Over time, the running portions will get longer, and the walks will get shorter and less frequent.
For younger kids (less than twelve years old), a mile or so is sufficient. Teens should shoot for longer distances.
Boxers know this one well - jumping rope will get your heart working in a hurry, and doing it repeatedly will greatly increase stamina. Work this one in slowly, but try to build up to at least three days per week (perhaps on alternating days with jogging). Much like jogging, a beginner won't be able to jump rope very long, but as his stamina increases, so will his maximum exercise time.
Younger players have no business pumping iron; do not push this. Even older pitchers should be careful of which weights they use - too much bulking of the upper body can only damage pitching potential.
Pitchers need flexibility - again, power comes from the legs and trunk and is transferred through the arm in almost a whip-like motion. Many great pitchers never lift weights at all, or do so very little, instead focusing on their legs and core.
Once simple word about these - don't. Weighted baseballs do absolutely nothing for a pitcher except increase his risk for injury. Throwing a weighted baseball might make your arm muscles stronger, but it will do little to nothing for your pitching velocity - this has been scientifically proven. Arm muscles have almost nothing to do with pitch velocity!
Throwing a nine or eleven ounce "heavy ball" requires changing the pitching motion one uses to throw a regulation five ounce ball. You overwrite muscle memory, you develop bad habits, you set yourself up for much increased risk of shoulder and elbow injury.
If your players wants to be a good pitcher, he must get himself into shape. If he builds strong legs and a strong core, acquires great endurance, and maintains good flexibility, he will be that much better equipped to dominate at pitching.